Mr. Harte tells me, that he intends to give you, by means of Signor Vicentini, a general notion of civil and military architecture; with which I am very well pleased. They are frequent subjects of conversation; and it is very right that you should have some idea of the latter, and a good taste of the former; and you may very soon learn as much as you need know of either. If you read about one-third of Palladio's book of architecture with some skillful person, and then, with that person, examine the best buildings by those rules, you will know the different proportions of the different orders; the several diameters of their columns; their intercolumniations, their several uses, etc. The Corinthian Order is chiefly used in magnificent buildings, where ornament and decoration are the principal objects; the Doric is calculated for strength, and the Ionic partakes of the Doric strength, and of the Corinthian ornaments. The Composite and the Tuscan orders are more modern, and were unknown to the Greeks; the one is too light, the other too clumsy. You may soon be acquainted with the considerable parts of civil architecture; and for the minute and mechanical parts of it, leave them to masons, bricklayers, and Lord Burlington, who has, to a certain extent, lessened himself by knowing them too well. Observe the same method as to military architecture; understand the terms, know the general rules, and then see them in execution with some skillful person. Go with some engineer or old officer, and view with care the real fortifications of some strong place; and you will get a clearer idea of bastions, half-moons, horn-works, ravelins, glacis, etc., than all the masters in the world could give you upon paper. And thus much I would, by all means, have you know of both civil and military architecture.
I would also have you acquire a liberal taste of the two liberal arts of painting and sculpture; but without descending into those minutia, which our modern virtuosi most affectedly dwell upon. Observe the great parts attentively; see if nature be truly represented; if the passions are strongly expressed; if the characters are preserved; and leave the trifling parts, with their little jargon, to affected puppies. I would advise you also, to read the history of the painters and sculptors, and I know none better than Felibien's. There are many in Italian; you will inform yourself which are the best. It is a part of history very entertaining, curious enough, and not quite useless. All these sort of things I would have you know, to a certain degree; but remember, that they must only be the amusements, and not the business of a man of parts.
Since writing to me in German would take up so much of your time, of which I would not now have one moment wasted, I will accept of your composition, and content myself with a moderate German letter once a fortnight, to Lady Chesterfield or Mr. Gravenkop. My meaning was only that you should not forget what you had already learned of the German language and character; but, on the contrary, that by frequent use it should grow more easy and familiar. Provided you take care of that, I do not care by what means: but I do desire that you will every day of your life speak German to somebody or other (for you will meet with Germans enough), and write a line or two of it every day to keep your hand in. Why should you not (for instance) write your little memorandums and accounts in that language and character? by which, too, you would have this advantage into the bargain, that, if mislaid, few but yourself could read them.
I am extremely glad to hear that you like the assemblies at Venice well enough to sacrifice some suppers to them; for I hear that you do not dislike your suppers neither. It is therefore plain, that there is somebody or something at those assemblies, which you like better than your meat. And as I know that there is none but good company at those assemblies, I am very glad to find that you like good company so well. I already imagine that you are a little, smoothed by it; and that you have either reasoned yourself, or that they have laughed you out of your absences and DISTRACTIONS; for I cannot suppose that you go there to insult them. I likewise imagine, that you wish to be welcome where you wish to go; and consequently, that you both present and behave yourself there 'en galant homme, et pas in bourgeois'.
If you have vowed to anybody there one of those eternal passions which I have sometimes known, by great accident, last three months, I can tell you that without great attention, infinite politeness, and engaging air and manners, the omens will be sinister, and the goddess unpropitious. Pray tell me what are the amusements of those assemblies? Are they little commercial play, are they music, are they 'la belle conversation', or are they all three? 'Y file-t-on le parfait amour? Y debite-t-on les beaux sentimens? Ou est-ce yu'on y parle Epigramme? And pray which is your department? 'Tutis depone in auribus'. Whichever it is, endeavor to shine and excel in it. Aim at least at the perfection of everything that is worth doing at all; and you will come nearer it than you would imagine; but those always crawl infinitely short of it whose aim is only mediocrity. Adieu.
P. S. By an uncommon diligence of the post, I have this moment received yours of the 9th, N. S.
LONDON, October 24, O. S. 1749.
DEAR BOY: By my last I only acknowledged, by this I answer, your letter of the 9th October, N. S.